BY Joelle Boedecker
If you were alive and aware of the world in 1999, then you will remember many significant moments from the year, the good, the bad, and truly terrifying. It was the year that saw an end to Beanie Babies production, a rise in boy bands, and a swell of technology predictions and development. From the launch of “The Sopranos” on HBO in January to the summer of Regis’ monotone ties and the Woodstock 99 riot, to the denouement of the Y2K Panic on New Year’s Eve, 1999 was an iconic year that ended a decade about which we would all soon wax nostalgic and be changed by forever.
In honor of our Season 7 episode devoted to the Best Film of 1999, here are our picks for the Top 10 trends from 1999.
10. Playing Snake on the Nokia 3210
The evolution of the mobile (cellular) phone has been a fascinating tech trend to track of the last three-plus decades. One of the earliest top trends in mobile phones came to us in 1999 with the Nokia 3210. A phone so popular, you could buy custom covers for it in mall kiosks. It was one of the first mobile phones to have built-in games, most notably, “Snake.” Similar to the game you could play on your graphing calculator, but on a much smaller screen, “Snake” became an addiction for many a Nokia phone user as they attempted to grow the snake to the largest possible size.
9. Time-Sucking Robot Pets
As an adult with real, living, breathing pets to care for in my home, I sometimes remember back to the days of digital pets (Giga Pets, Tamagotchis, and Furbies) and wonder… why? I didn’t have real pets growing up, just closets of Beanie Babies, and these toys didn’t prepare me for them or replace my desire for them. By 1999, these demanding, time-sucking, and intrusive “pets” were everywhere. Furbies, much like Gremlins, were demons after midnight, and Giga Pets and Tamagotchis were as disruptive to kids’ attention as the slap bracelets of the early 90s. They were quickly banned from schools.
8. Waiting outside MTV Studios in Times Square
In 1997, MTV moved its studios to Times Square and then launched the incredibly popular juggernaut, “Total Request Live” (aka “TRL”), to the world in 1998. By 1999, it was the height of trendy to go to NYC on a trip and get pulled into a crowd in Times Square waiting for beloved music celebrities to drop by TRL and hope to get invited into the studio while Carson Daly was hosting. The crowds for certain celebrities — looking at you, boy bands — would shut down Times Square for hours. This preceded the actual street closure of Time Square a few years later, making it an outdoor gathering area for tourists and Broadway goers.
7. The Bs of Fashion
Fashion trends in 1999 owe to the evolution of the decade. The 90s started with the bright colors and brighter patterns of the 80s, and grunge style coming in to tamp it down. On the sidelines, skater fashion was evolving and coming up to mix with the big kids. The Delia*s catalog found its way into every teen/tween girl’s mailbox across the mid- to late 90s and encouraged the popularity of baggy pants, bucket hats, bare midriffs, beaded chokers, and blue eye shadow. In 1999, these fashion trends were represented across across pop-culture media.
6. Teen Movie Blockbusters
If there’s one thing on this list that had the most profound impact on me personally, it was the new wave of movies geared toward teenagers in 1999. I was 15 going on 16 in 1999 and “10 Things I Hate About You” and its companions (“She’s All That,” “Varsity Blues,” “American Pie,” and “Election”) spoke to me on a level my beloved 80s teen movies couldn’t. This new wave of teen movies was filled with soundtracks I would know by heart for decades to come, quotes that would become memes a generation later, and modernized plots that were begat by the iconic “Clueless” from four years earlier.
If there’s one thing on this list that had the most profound impact on me personally, it was the new wave of movies geared toward teenagers in 1999. I was 15 going on 16 in 1999 and “10 Things I Hate About You” and its companions (“She’s All That,” “Varsity Blues,” “American Pie,” and “Election”) spoke to me on a level my beloved 80s teen movies could not. This new wave of teen movies was filled with soundtracks I would know by heart for decades to come, quotes that would become memes a generation later, and modernized plots that were begat by the iconic “Clueless” from four years earlier.
5. Dancing to Latin Music
Music in 1999 finally evolved to include an as yet under-represented genre in pop music. Latin and Latin-influenced music finally went mainstream after years of sitting in the wings of American pop culture, after Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” was everywhere. Soon after, we had Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and Marc Anthony all over the radio. Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” came out in 1999 and Carlos Santana finally found
mainstream success with his collaboration-filled album, “Supernatural.” American music would forever be changed for the better.
4. Bullet Time
Imagine an action movie or video game in the last 20+ years and consider how many of them utilize slow-motion effects to dramatize a car flip, flight of a bullet, athletic movement, or super reflexes. These effects can often be attributed to the popularization of “Bullet Time,” which was coined in the script of the first “Matrix” film in 1999. Soon
after “The Matrix,” it could be seen in video games like “Max Payne” and movies like “Charlie’s Angels.”
3. “Is that your final answer?”
There was a moment in the summer of ’99 when everyone in America was glued to the TV every night waiting to see who “Reeg” — aka Regis Philbin — would award $1 million. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” took the country by storm. They were talking about his ties on “Good Morning America,” people in the grocery story would ask if you needed a lifeline,
and inevitably a member of your family would ask, “Is that your final answer?” by the time Thanksgiving rolled around in November.
2. Mix CDs via Napster
Until peer-to-peer file sharing came around, it was more likely that you’d share a mix tape with a friend or loved one to show them how much you care. In 1999, however, Napster launched and changed the way we accessed music forever. By the end of 1999, blank CD sales were on the rise, and mix CDs replaced mix tapes. Even though Napster would ultimately launch a thousand lawsuits and be shut down, soon enough bit torrents and then streaming services replaced it, and millions of people never bought physical media again.
1. Y2K Panic and Parties
Dependence on computer technology grew exponentially during the 90s. At some point, well before 1999, a fear of what would happen when we switched the year from 99 over to 00 sparked concern known as “Y2K”. How would the computers know what century we were in? Were we sure everything would just switch over? Would the entire world shut down? Would planes and trains just stop working? Could we lose power and water and start an apocalypse? As our imaginations, with help from a rise in disaster movies, ran wild, we prepared for the end of the world. We built hype, planned parties, and became survival experts. Programmers worked overtime. And then… nothing actually
happened. It’s 23 years later and we’re still there, waiting for the next “apocalypse.”
Do you agree with our list? Did we miss some of your favorite trends from 1999? Let us know in the comments!
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